Difficulty- Easy to advanced
CYPRESS HILLS INTERPROVINCIAL PARK
Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park is one of my favourite places to visit. This extremely varied landscape offers breathtaking vistas, dense forest and natural prairies. Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park is a hiker and mountain bikers dream location as it offers the technicality of the mountains without the drive!
The park sits on the Saskatchewan and Alberta border in the southwest corner. I recommend taking grid roads to the park as it gives you the opportunity to explore a wide open landscape and you get away from the traffic of the highway for a bit. There a few routes you can take on the grids but if you follow your map you will not get lost. Remember, those who venture off the path will see more!
The park offers hiking trails from the easy to advanced and has a few overnight locations that are only accessible by hiking trails. This offers the true backpackers experience.
One of the best parts of the park is the numerous moutain biking trails. Trails rated black diamond should only be attempted by an experienced mountain biker, as they are techincal and very fast. However, if you are up for the challenge they are just are comparable to some mountain trails I have been on.
Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park has both summer and winter activities, so if you are a cross-country skier make sure to check out the winter trail map.
There are two trails that I highly reccomend for both hikers and bikers within the Elkwater section of the park.
Horeshoe Canyon Trail
Difficulty- easy to moderate
This is a moderately hard trail with a generous incline for the first half of the trip. This trail takes you along a mix of prairie and forest and offers the best vistas I have ever seen as you climb in elevation. It takes you to the Horseshoe Canyon Viewpoint that can be driven to if you are with people who can't make the trail. The view here took my breath away, you feel like you are on top of the world.
Difficutly - moderate to advanced
A black diamond mountain biking and hiking trail. This trail will test your skills but the rewards are worth it! It follows a well marked path with many changes in elevation and is full of twists and turns.
I explored this trail on my mountain bike and came out with a few bumps and scrapes but the descent on the last kilometre that takes you into Elkwater was worth it. The last kilometre stretch is a straight descent and those who can stay off the brakes are in for a wild ride!
Be careful on this route if it has just rained as there are many exposed roots and rocks to slip on.
There are numerous ways to enter the park, these are directions to get to Elkwater where most of the amenities are. This is the easiest route to take, but you can take numerous grid roads if you wish to. I reccomend traveling this way if you have time and are confident in your navigation skills.
Head west on Transcanada Highway 1, once you pass the Alberta Border drive for for 25km.
Turn south onto Highway 41 towards Elkwater.